Author Interview: Julie Salamon
Writers are risk takers. A lot is at stake; words, stories, and even rejection. In order to catch the attention of a reader, one cannot always write about the things they are willing to speak about. Everyone wants to hear a story that takes chances. So what have you been afraid to reveal in your writing?
Before you convince anyone- a publisher, critic, reader- to take a chance on your story, you yourself have to take a chance. To learn more about how to push past limits and uncertainties when writing, I decided to interview best-selling author and fearless writer, Julie Salamon.
LISA ALLARD: You have a lot of experience under your belt. Not only have you worked for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but you have published nine books in a variety of genres, including your newest book, Cat in the City. Do you think it is important to be diverse when writing and why?
JULIE SALAMON : Exploring different genres and landscapes has been important to me. I have a restless mind and wide range of interests, so the variety makes sense. And my mood shifts. Some years I'm in journalism mode, eager to explore new subjects and keep on the move. At other times I want to turn inward. I wish I could say the path has been intentional, but I usually follow my instincts and hope for the best.
LISA: Wendy and the Lost Boys, The Net of Dreams, The Devil’s Candy, The Christmas Tree. All of these books tell stories that are so different from one another, yet they are all connected because they have been produced by one individual: You. What influences your work and what inspires you to write?
JULIE: While the stories are different, they are--as you point out--produced by one individual, so the approach I take reflects my obsessions. The connection has to do with my interest in how people find meaning in their lives as they contend with the exigencies of fate. No matter what the enterprise, people struggle with similar issues, though how that struggle plays out differs enormously depending on the setting. I'm fascinated by what gives people the desire to create, the courage to overcome hardship,and the difficulties (petty and grand) that get in the way. My parents influenced me more than anything. They both had spent part of World War II in concentration camps and lost parents, siblings and many other family members as well as their home in the war. Yet they married, had children, and began life over in the small rural town in Ohio where I grew up and where my dad was the town doctor. My mother is still alive but my dad died when I was 18. They were/are very loving and generous people and I've always been humbled and curious about how they endured enormous hardship and loss without becoming hardened.
LISA: Cat in the City is your first novel for children. Starting anything new can be intimidating and risk-taking. What made you decide to write a children's novel? Did you face any uncertainties in the process? Why do you think it is important to take risks as a writer?
JULIE: I'd like to offer a high-minded reason for starting a children's novel, but I truly believe it was a reaction to my younger child leaving home for college. Yes, my answer to empty nest syndrome! The illustrator Jill Weber had sent me an obituary about a beautiful white cat that had become a kind of mascot for a street in Greenwich Village, in New York City. The article sat in a drawer for three years until I started writing the book, (not!) coincidentally a month after my son left for college. Did I face any uncertainties? I guess the answer to that has to be: Am I a writer? For me there are always uncertainties, offset by bouts of supreme confidence in thestory, then back to uncertainty. It's always a roller-coaster--lots of exhilaration, plenty of stomach-aches, and relief when the ride concludessuccessfully. Is it important to take risks as a writer? I think every time I sit down to write for publication I'm taking a risk, so yes!
LISA: Aside from being an award-winning and best-selling author, your writing makes people truly listen. What do you think makes a good story?
JULIE: First, thank you!
What do I think makes a good story? Characters who engage you, a plot so involving you'll prop your eyes open to make it through the end of the chapter no matter how tired you are, language that delights, the sense you are being shown a new way of looking at the world.
LISA: In a world where most authors are defined by their literary genre, your writing has crossed multiple genres – biography, fiction, nonfiction, etc. What do you think it is that defines you as a writer?
JULIE : I hope I am defined as a writer with integrity who has respect for the power of words.
LISA: You have something to say, and you say it in a way that is compelling, inspiring, and thought-provoking. How do you want to change the way your readers think? What statement do you hope to make through your writing and why?
JULIE: My hope always is to shine new light on subjects we think we know. I am always amazed at the myriad ways people cope (or not) with the burdens life presents. I aim for hopefulness without sentimentality or losing sight of reality. As for why: I think of the countless times throughout my life I've turned to books for guidance, solace, provocation and enjoyment. The idea that I might do that for someone else is amazing, humbling, and gratifying.
Julie Salamon has written nine books in many genres, most recently Cat in the City, illustrated by Jill Weber. Her other books include New York Times bestsellers Wendy and the Lost Boys and The Christmas Tree (also illustratedby Jill Weber), as well as Hospital, The Devil’s Candy, Facing the Wind ,The Net of Dreams , and Rambam’s Ladder. She was a reporter and then the film critic for The Wall Street Journal and later a television critic and reporter on the staff of the New York Times. Julie is a graduate of Tufts University and New York University School of Law. She is chair of the BRC, a social services organization in New York City that provides care for people who are homeless and may suffer from addiction or mental disease.. Born in Cincinnati and raised in Seaman, Ohio, a rural town of 800; in 2008 she was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. New York City has long been home; she lives in downtown Manhattan with her husband Bill Abrams,executive director of Trickle Up. They have two children, Roxie and Eli, anda cat and dog, Kuro and Maggie.
Julie Salamon and Illustrator Jill Webber will be discussing and signing copies of A Cat in the City Sunday December 7that 1:00 pm at Gibson’s Book Store in Concord.